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Stories 8-13

All from Orson Scott Card's Keeper of Dreams hardcover collection, all from the "fantasy" section of the book, although I'd categorize them more specifically as "urban fantasy:"

Story 8: Vessel.  A young boy is dragged to a family reunion, and in wandering off from his obnoxious cousins discovers a cave along a stream bed, and becomes a vessel for a power he doesn't necessarily want.  While the power aspect of this makes it a fantasy story, it really is more about how we learn things about human nature simply by knowing our own family.  Another interesting side effect of this for me was how much it reminded me of my own story "Canopus," which also features a cave (but on an island) and a violent history that goes back to Native American times.  The protagonist of my story does not gain any powers though.  He just gets the shit scared out of him.

Story 9: Dust.  This would, if expanded a bit, actually make a nice YA novel.  The young male protagonist's mother is dying and the family is moving to Arizona from Michigan.  He hopes that by getting lost in the local department store at Christmas time, he can stop the move from happening.  Getting lost leads him to an interesting fantasy world that might be just a bit reminiscent of Narnia, specifically the Narnia of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe."  It's a great adventure story with two of Card's very real, if precocious, child characters at the center.

Story 10: Homeless In Hell.  I absolutely loved this: a look at what happens when Heaven won't let you in but you're not evil enough for Hell, so you end up spending eternity on the streets outside Hell, which look a lot like the normal streets on Earth.  Unlike in Dickens, most of these purgatory-stuck souls cannot even see the world they left behind ... but a few can.  So far, other than "Atlantis," which I read and commented on late in 2008, this might be my favorite story in the collection, or at least favorite among the pieces here that are new to me.

Story 11: In The Dragon's House.  Card's notes say this one was written for the Marvin Kaye-edited anthology "The Dragon Quintet," and that after he wrote it he considered expanding it into a novel (he ended up writing "Magic Street" instead).  Personally, I don't think it needs expanding.  It's a slow moving, moody piece about a big old house and the family that inhabits it.  The main action stops at just the right point, there is a little coda (covering, I guess, what the rest of the novel would have) that ties things in a neat little bow.  I liked it just the way it is.

Story 12: Inventing Lovers on the Phone.  Card says this one was based on certain lines in the Janis Ian classic "At Seventeen."  Just shows you can get inspiration anywhere and make the results totally your own.  Ian's song was written when we all used phones still attached to the wall; Card's story was written when individual cell phone numbers did not come up on your caller ID.  It's a good piece about wanting to do something to change your peers' opinions of you.  It has a slight twist at the end that redeems the story from being a typical "mysterious voice on the other end of the phone" horror story.  Good, but not my favorite of the lot.

Story 13: Waterbaby.  Most of the stories in the volume weigh in at 30 or more pages.  This one clocks in at 10. It also reads more like a dramatic monologue than a regular short story, and so the strength of the piece is, or should, lie in the protagonist's voice.  I think Card falters a little bit here.  The tension ratchets up nicely and the "big moment" is satisfying, but it still felt like there was something missing.  Apparently, this story is peripherally connected to Card's novel "Magic Street," which I have not read.



A Story A Day Keeps Boredom Away

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